“Don’t be afraid,” Elisha said, “because there are more of us than there are of them.”
2 Kings 6:16 (Common English Bible)
This week, the world was startled to learn that two Palestinians, armed with a gun, knives and axes, burst into a Jerusalem synagogue and murdered three rabbis and a fourth man during their morning prayer. This outrageous act represents the kind of extremism that continues to destabilize the efforts toward peace and security for all of the Middle East. Yet, the world must never lose sight that for the majority of Palestinians and Israelis, peace is desired, prayed for and sought. As with any other people, those who make the Middle East their home wish simply to raise their families knowing they’re safe and secure. The difficulty is that these horrific acts, when they occur again and again, have the capacity diminish hope and shape a mood of pessimism and cynical expectations.
Into the midst of this pessimism and cynical expectations the church has a word from the Lord, “Don’t be afraid.” Morale is the church’s business. As God’s people, the church must apply herself to the daunting task of reshaping our communities and unifying the public mood with an atmosphere that is hopeful. Never must the church permit people to wallow in dire despair or give free reign to expectations of disaster and experience of hopelessness and fear. Against the compulsion to panic the church is called to present another viewpoint, that of certainty and conviction in the active presence and work of God in the world.
The world, in all of its brokenness, fear and anxiety, needs a theology of hope. Reservoirs of moral strength, genuine love and extravagant forgiveness is the gift the church received from the cross of Christ and it is the same gift that we are to distribute to every nation, to every people. It is at the very moment that terrible things happen that the church is surely called to instill again and again its confidence in the power of goodness, a goodness that springs forth from faith in God. For only from this position of spiritual strength can people escape from utter despair and become caught up in compassion toward one another.
If we are indeed God’s people, we are to play a part, however small, in bridging divisions and healing hurts. Perhaps our own contribution may be as simple as exercising civility, in speech and behavior, with those with whom we find disagreement. Rhetoric in our nation has become considerably more intense than most of us can ever remember. Our work, as God’s people, is now to cool our nation’s rhetoric and get on with building confidence once again in the immense spiritual strength that is available in God’s promise that “there are more of us than there are of them.”